Thursday, June 20, 2013


by Roger Pe (First of 2 parts)

What if you could use millions of old, analog phones to create a new brand of textbook?

This was the germ of an idea that catapulted the Philippines to win its first ever Cannes Grand Prix Lion in the ongoing Cannes international festival of advertising creativity.

And so, the smartest idea wins it.

To put it simply, the purest idea reminds us all once again that it can conquer the world and make the world believe.

No Hollywood special effects in the mold of “Iron Man”, no state-of-the-art equipment to create mind blowing animation, no first world technology and talents to do the trick. Just an idea so relevant it made a lot of impact.

By this time, the whole advertising world is still heady over DM9 JaymeSyfu’s conquest of Cannes Grand Prix Mobile Lion introduced last year.

For those who are used to daily fare of slick and beautifully produced ads, DM9's entry will not even impress the jaded Cannes habitué.

Why, it looks like a powerpoint market case study. But there lies the sting. Skim through the surface and beyond the ordinary is a huge idea laced with the greatest of intentions: Make many Filipino school children learn to read fast.

The natural veneer of DM9’s “TXTBKS” made it shine the brightest in a category that drew over 100 technology-driven entries from first world countries, clearly one fine example of the agency's mantra: Small but credible. And if we may add: Relevant.

Advertising global bible Ad Age describes it as: “A clever way of using old-school technology. Rather than replace old analog cellphones, the agency dreamt of a way to make them beneficial to citizens.”

How DM9 did it.

It looked no further but right into the country’s state of education, where unlike in developed countries, tablets and e-readers have become the solution to large, voluminous heavy textbooks.

“We were working on a Smart project involving children and learning. We realized one of the ideas we'd brainstormed could be used to solve a bigger problem. That idea would become “TXTBKS,” says Merlee Jayme, Chair and Chief Creative Officer of DM9 JaymeSyfu ad agency.

Jayme and her team were aware of the need: how to make technology relevant to schools and make it easily accessible.

“Mobile is where digital is headed—in fact, many would say mobile is where it's been the past few years already. And it's where the most exciting advances are being made. Naturally, perhaps some were expecting technical pyrotechnics,” Jayme says.

But you see nothing of that sort in DM9’s case however. “What we simply set out to create was a solution to a problem,” she adds.

In DM9’s study, it found out that even the cheapest tablet model is worth more than what their families make in a month. Most families own one or two old analog mobile phones, used mainly for texting.

It also noted that kids as young as seven must bring up to 22 books every day, leaving them physically exhausted and unfocused even before their first class—and in many documented cases, afflicted with scoliosis.

The solution: "Make text light and easy".

Over six months, the agency collaborated with textbook authors and publishers to refine official school texts into 160-character messages.

They were then programmed into the inboxes of thousands of inactive surplus sim cards, which were then repackaged into new Smart TXTBKS.

What turned out gave them amazing results: the oldest analog phones became a new type of e-reader and old text sim cards became a new brand of textbook.


A quarter after it was launched in partner schools that needed it most, the simple, low-tech solution made a sustainable impact.

School bags became 50% lighter, classroom attendance increased to 95% while average test performance went 90% during implementation.

Petitions and pledges from schools, families, and education sector members grew. TXTBKS literally went places, with more subjects and grade levels, rolling out across the Philippines.

Rei Inamoto, VP-chief creative officer of AKQA, an ad agency specializing in digital services and jury chair.

On Ad Age, jury members said that the simplicity of DM9’s work was what made it win. “I think it’s an unexpected Grand Prix winner. It’s not the most technically advanced entry, and in fact, it’s a little bit backward.”

Xavier Laoureux, head of the Digital Arts Network at TBWA, said what was “interesting about it - is that it’s the best way to show you can have a mobile idea without pushing the technology side of it. It was not using technology as the end.”

A total of 59 Mobile Lions were awarded, nine of them were Gold, not including the Grand Prix winner.

All nine Gold Lions were good enough to have won the Grand Prix, Mr. Inamoto said, but in the end, the balance tilted in favor of DM9’s “TXTBKS” entry because, at the end of the day, Mr. Inamoto said his suggested definition of Mobile Advertising was, “Is it portable? Is it connected? And is it pervasive?”

Agency: DM9JaymeSyfu
Chair and CCO: Merlee Jayme
ECD: Eugene Demata
ACD/Copywriter: Aste Gutierrez
ACD Digital: Buboy Paguio
AD: Buboy Rayong
Account Supervisor: Alex Syfu
Account Manager: Ina Vargas
Producer: Carlo Perlas, Tower of Doom
Editor: Melo Samson, Tower of Doom

DM9 JaymeSyfu is part of DDB Group Philippines, whose Group Chairman and CEO is Gil G. Chua. It was Campaign Asia-Pacific Agency of the Year and is named after one of the most creative agencies in the world, DDB DM9 Brazil.